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The cases of brain degenerative disease will rise as the human population ages. Current treatments have a transient effect and lack an investigative system that is physiologically relevant for testing. There is evidence suggesting optogenetic stimulation is a potential strategy; however, an in vitro disease and optogenetic model requires a three-dimensional microenvironment. Alginate is a promising material for tissue and optogenetic engineering. Although it is bioinert, alginate hydrogel is transparent and therefore allows optical penetration for stimulation. In this study, alginate was functionalized with arginine-glycine-aspartate acid (RGD) to serve as a 3D platform for encapsulation of human SH-SY5Y cells, which were optogenetically modified and characterized. The RGD-alginate hydrogels were tested for swelling and degradation. Prior to encapsulation, the cells were assessed for neuronal expression and optical-stimulation response. The results showed that RGD-alginate possessed a consistent swelling ratio of 18% on day 7, and degradation remained between 3.7–5% throughout 14 days. Optogenetically modified SH-SY5Y cells were highly viable (>85%) after lentiviral transduction and neuronal differentiation. The cells demonstrated properties of functional neurons, developing beta III tubulin (TuJ1)-positive long neurites, forming neural networks, and expressing vGlut2. Action potentials were produced upon optical stimulation. The neurons derived from human SH-SY5Y cells were successfully genetically modified and encapsulated; they survived and expressed ChR2 in an RGD-alginate hydrogel system.

Original publication




Journal article





Publication Date





1534 - 1534